I work with brands daily to help them tell their story. There are a few message killers that pop up repeatedly. If you’re struggling to win buyers, I’d bet one of these issues is to blame…
- You’re trying to be an option for everyone.
- It’s not clear how giving you money will deliver the result they want.
- You’re blabbering about how great you are.
Don’t sweat it if one or more of these describe you. It just means there’s a lot of opportunities ahead when you get your message right. Your website, marketing, and sales will all be more effective when your brand story tells how you deliver a desired result for a specific group of people.
This article is going to walk you through the three steps to do precisely that, create a brand story that connects with people who care about what you can do for them.
Step 1: Decide who you want as a customer (and who you don’t)
Patagonia sewed tags in their clothes that say, “Vote the assholes out” before the 2020 election.
The idea came from the top. Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, championed the statement in response to the current administration’s approach to environmental causes. It’s a polarizing statement. You’re either with Patagonia or against them. There’s not really a middle ground when you draw a line like that in the sand.
Thanks to these tags and several similar ads, the brand has gotten boatloads of press and solidified its place as the outdoor brand for millions of outdoor enthusiasts that sit on the liberal side of the fence.
Patagonia also shunned millions of other potential customers. I’d guess wearing a Patagonia pullover to a Trump golf outing is about like wearing a Yankees hat to a Red Sox rally. But Patagonia could care less about losing conservative voters that don’t align with their environmental focus. They’re willing to anger the wrong customers to win the right ones.
Quite literally on the flip side, you have Fox News. Like Patagonia, Fox makes it clear who their viewer (customer) is. It just happens to be all those folks Patagonia is shunning. Fox is happy to offend a liberal to cement their spot as the news source for conservative Americans.
In a news game where most other media outlets are center to left-leaning, Fox stands out to the people they want. Their strategy works. Fox News racked up record viewership throughout the election season. While liberal viewers split their time between various news outlets, conservative voters watched Fox News.
You don’t have to be quite as polarizing as Patagonia or Fox News, but you can’t be afraid to step on some toes. Determine who you want as a customer, and who you don’t. Your product, website, marketing, and sales will all be stronger if you can point to a specific group of people and say that’s who we want.
Step 2: Tell people what you do (for them)
Most brands get this wrong. In an effort to be clever, companies put out meaningless fluff that tells prospects absolutely nothing about what they can expect if they hand over their hard-earned money. Never sacrifice a clear value proposition for clever copy.
If you can express a clear value proposition wrapped in a clever package—go for it. There’s magic in that combo, but only a few rare companies can pull off clear and clever. If you can’t do both, pick clear. You’ll sell more if there’s no question in a customer’s mind about what good thing is going to happen if they give you money.
We’re all selfish animals. We read websites, ads, and emails thinking,
“What’s in it for me?”
If you don’t make it stupid simple for someone to know what they’ll get out of giving you money, they won’t give you money. Prospects will move on to the next option that makes the desired result obvious. If you get nothing else out of this article, remember this one point. Build your brand message around the desired result you give a specific group of customers. Don’t hide your message trying to be cute and funny. Come right out and tell people what you do for them.
Step 3: Talk about their wins (not yours)
I don’t care if you’re selling swing sets or accounting services, the key to selling more of them is to make your customer look smart by buying from you. Talking about how great you are might make your team feel good, but nobody else cares about your technologies, awards, and accomplishments. Yes, list accolades as social proof, but obsessively talk about how your customer will win by making this purchase.
Let’s pretend I do own a swing set company. You wouldn’t find selfish fluff talking about the features of our swing sets on our website. I’d show parents how happy their kids will be thanks to their investment in the highest quality swing set available. Our website would persuade with facts about how outside play expands the imagination, improves grades, and prevents obesity. I’d make that mom or dad feel like the best freaking parent in the world by making this one-time payment of $2,999.
Your message is about you, but it’s not. The story you tell revolves around the customer you want to buy. If you make them look good, they’ll give you money.
Keep it simple (stupid simple)
Don’t overcomplicate things. Building your brand story is fairly straightforward. All you really need to do is follow these three steps.
- Decide who you want as a customer (and who you don’t).
- Tell them what you do (for them).
- Talk about their wins (not yours).
Be the option for a specific group of people instead of an option for everyone. Your brand story should chase away the wrong customers and sing to the right ones. Make it clear what you do, who you do it for, and how their life is going to be better thanks to buying from you. You’ll sell more of whatever you sell.
If you’re still struggling and need some help ironing out the kinks in your brand story, grab this brand script and brand one-liner framework we use with all of our clients.